It was a typical cloudy Sand Diego morning. Those that know better would know that these clouds will burn off by mid morning, revealing that ubiquitous bright sun to which after just a little amount of exposure, we need to cover up or hide like mice. But a cloudy San Diego morning is a perfect time for a hike. In my case, it was the Torrey Pines State Park.
A three phase hike amongst nature and no cars
Phase one involves a generous hill climb, along a winding service road with good footing and generous space to pass slower walkers, or be passed by others on bicycle. Phase two is a sand dirt path with switch backs alongside sagebrush and milkmaids bringing us back down to sea level to Phase three, the money hike, along the beach: ocean waves of roaring energy on my left and the sandstone bluff on my right, looping me back to my parked car along the shore on Highway 101.
Like exercise before a sauna session, the Torrey Pines hike has me invigorated. Blood flowing, muscles working without excessive stress, and my mind opening with the outdoor expanse of Nature with a capital N. Along the beach, though I was sweaty and a bit fatigued, I didn’t want the hike to end. Looking left and right, I could make out small clusters of walkers, but nobody was swimming. I took this as my cue. Undressing down to my Troxers, my clothes folded on the beach, I ventured out into the ocean with the same conviction as entering round one of a sauna session. The waves fought me back as I walked deeper and deeper until, like that first wave of water on the sauna rocks, I dove head first into an oncoming wave. Ahhhh.
Just me and the ocean. One with the waves. Connecting with nature through my body and soul. Sauna provides us a similar oneness. A connection with the natural heat, and then the cold plunge between sauna rounds. I couldn’t help but want to body surf with these waves, to feel their energy and the power of the ocean through my body. Oh, what a familiar feeling to sauna! A reset button. Between sauna rounds, sitting in the garden all misty wet with rain, we become reconnected to nature. We don’t just see the trees and hear the birds but we become part of nature. We are in the landscape, not just looking at it. Same with the ocean. We aren’t seeing the ocean but are with the ocean.
When we sauna, we don’t need products from Walgreens to feel clean. The natural flushing of our pores is achieved by the sweating and clean rinse after our sauna rounds. When we ocean swim, we don’t need products from Walgreens to feel clean. The natural salt water cleans us out too. When we sauna, we don’t need anything but ourselves. When we body surf, we don’t need anything but ourselves. How great it feels to catch a wave and be one with the wave. No boogie board or surf board needed. And same with sauna. We step into the hot room naked and are one with the heat.
One more round, one more wave
“One more wave” i’m thinking. I’m feeling half my age. Maybe one third my age, invigorated from my hike and swim. I’m reminded of how great I feel after a few sauna rounds. Should I do another round? Should I swim out and surf another wave? Sure, why not? One more round out past where the ocean waves break. Like sitting on the sauna bench, patiently awaiting my moment. I see the swell building. This is my moment. And just like that toss of water on the sauna rocks, I dive with the wave, catching it perfectly. The rush of the wave carries through my body, just like steam on the sauna bench. “Ahhhhhhh” I ride the wave as long as I can, then bounce up from the wave, standing up euphoric.
Sisu – the endorphin rush.
I walk my way back to shore with a confident swagger, feeling invigorated and fantastic. Like a cold plunge between sauna rounds, my body has transformed. I’ve met the power of Nature head on. Wim Hof says “The cold is my teacher, hard but righteous.” Powerful ocean waves are similar. Hard but righteous. We are cognitive thinkers, and sauna brings us to a familiar place of appreciation for “hard nature.” We embrace nature and the hard elements. This gives us strength and fortitude. I am silent and grateful.
I walk over to my clothes on the beach with a big satisfied smile. Invigorated, fulfilled. Like after a sauna session, I feel like i’ve gone on a trip somewhere and have been transformed. I’m calm and relaxed. Is it ok to look like an idiot with a smile on my face? Why do I care if anyone sees me like this, anyway? No, I don’t care. Just as I don’t care what others may be thinking about jumping into 38 degree Lake Superior, I’m not caring if anyone is noticing me, the only swimmer at Torrey Pines beach on this Thursday morning, and the only one with a goofy grin. We lose our self consciousness in the moment of being with nature.
No towel? No big deal. I drop my Troxers and dry off with my T shirt. Naked in the breeze. Do I care? No. Am i an exhibitionist? No. Am I being rude to others? No. I have chosen a time to change when nobody is looking, and nobody cares anyway. Why are we so freaked out by a naked butt anyway? Am i just being a liberal European with nakedness? No, we Americans are too insecure to realize that we all have butts and nobody cares about our naked butts. But I am only naked for a few seconds. As I slip into my dry shorts, I have made no foul and have created no harm. Same with sauna. The rare times I may sauna in the public domain, I see no problem with a quick change and slipping into dry clothes. Am I the weird one? Probably. But am I the one to get into the car with a dry ass? Yes.
As I leave Torrey Pines beach in my rear view mirror, I am thinking about the parallels of body surfing and sauna. I am grateful for the familiarity. I feel fantastic being reconnected to myself and the earth. I realize how much I value simplicity. I am thinking of Gary Erickson, founder of Clif Bar, who in his book Above the Bar, talks about his bike trips in Europe, without saddle bags and a bunch of stuff. How he enjoys bike trips with only the bare minimum.
I love sauna for many reasons.
Simplicity is one of them.